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You Know You've Been in Rio a While When...

Rio de Janeiro Student Work
by Lucy Bryson Sep 4, 2014
Prefere ler em português? Esse texto foi publicado originalmente na MatadorNetwork Brasil.
You start referring to Facebook as “facey.”

Voce esta no facey?“(“Are you on Facebook?”) might sound like a disarming question if you’re a recent arrival in Rio, but you’ll soon figure out that you’re being asked if you have a Facebook account. You’ll probably cringe the first few times you hear it, but you’ll soon catch yourself asking the same question.

Next steps: You start referring to shopping malls as “shoppings” and to Caipirinhas as “caipis.”

Clapping loudly is a perfectly reasonable alternative to ringing a doorbell.

Doorbells are unnecessary in Rio. Many people don’t have a working doorbell even if they live in an apartment block. Doorbell systems seem prone to breaking or malfunctioning with such regularity that many people just give up on them altogether.

As such, loud clapping, whistling, and shouting are considered perfectly normal substitutes for a broken doorbell. You might feel self-conscious the first time you do it, but before long you’ll be yelling on doorsteps, too.

Your bag gets its own chair.

A common social faux pas made by foreigners new to Rio is to put their bag on the floor. This will lead to a concerned local picking it up and handing it back to you, saying “your bag was on the floor!” Cariocas — and Brazilians in general — consider it both bad luck and unhygienic to put a bag on the floor. If there isn’t a spare seat, it goes on your lap or the back of your chair (although always where you can keep an eye on it). Just never, ever on the floor.

You complain that it’s “freezing” if it’s not scorching hot.

Rio is a hot city. In summer — and large parts of the winter — it can be searingly hot, so the sensation of feeling cold becomes both odd and very unpleasant. When a “cold front” brings wind, rain, and lower temperatures, everybody shivers and complains about how terribly cold it is, even if it’s about 20 degrees celsius (69F) as opposed to the usual 35 (95F). Sweaters are piled on and plans are canceled till the weather ups its game again.

You no longer have any hangups about revealing your “knobby knees” or “wobbly thighs.”

While international media depictions would have us believe Rio is a city populated entirely by bronzed beauties with flawless bodies, the reality is somewhat different. With some truly gorgeous exceptions, most Cariocas (Rio locals) are mere mortals complete with all the usual imperfections, and the scorching heat means skimpy clothing is the norm regardless of age, size, or body type. Hey, you’ve got a glorious tan and you’re not going to hide it.

You’ve become addicted to pão de queijo.

It’s near impossible to meet a Carioca who doesn’t like pão de queijo. However, on first sampling these little cheese breads made with manioc flour, many people are unimpressed by the chewy, almost rubbery texture.

But give it a few weeks. Initial distaste will soon lead to “hmm, not so bad,” and before you know it you’ll be hooked. They’re naturally gluten-free, making a good on-the-hoof snack for anyone with a wheat or gluten intolerance.

You no longer take it literally when somebody says “I’m arriving.”

The first few times newcomers to Rio hear “estou chegando” (“I’m arriving”), they’ll get ready for the imminent arrival of the party en route. They’ll then check their phone and watch for the next couple of hours while growing increasingly annoyed / concerned / worried that they’ve been stood up. After a few occasions, the penny will drop that when a Carioca says they’re arriving, it basically means they haven’t given up on the plans and will arrive at some point. They may be just getting into the shower and planning to have a leisurely breakfast before heading off, but hold tight because they will show up.

On the other hand, if somebody says they’ll turn up “se Deus quiser” (“if God wants”), it’s almost certain they’ll be a no-show.

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